Wrestling 2011-12 Preview
Michigan will enter the season as a top 10 pick nationally and in the upper half of the B1G, around 4th behind the likes of Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota. The Wolverines return 9 of 10 starters, including 6 NCAA qualifiers and a National Champ. This year, some notable names for other B1G teams might be taking an Olympic redshirt. Hit biggest by this are Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Badgers are a very star driven team, so those losses will leave a big mark on the lineup. tOSU is coming off a down year to begin with.
- 125 Sean Boyle (Jr) – Boyle is coming off a 28-15 season where he was 4th in the B1G, an NCAA qualifier and one tournament win away from being an All-American. He wrestled to his potential at the end of the year, but, was stuck behind 3 elite level wrestlers in conference. One leaves this year in NU’s Precin, bumping him to 3rd best. Nationally, look for him just outside the top 10. Maybe 11th. Cracking the top 10 should be a good year for him.
- 133 Zac Stevens (Sr) – 23-17 in 2010-11, 5th in the B1G. NCAA qualifier. 5th was a great finish in the conference for him at a packed weight. With Wisconsin losing Graff this season, Stevens should be an easy top 5 finisher and push for 3rd. Although I think he can compete with anyone, Iowa’s Ramos and Illinois Futrell are maybe at a tier above him. Nationally he looks to be ranked probably 10th.
- 141 Kellen Russell (RS Sr) – Returning National Champion with an undefeated season of 38-0. He won the B1G, but, that’s given. What should we expect? Well, he losses some of the tougher conference competition with only Iowa’s Marion really pushing him. He didn’t lose to him last year and why should he this season. I think anything less then another national championship would be a disappointment for him.
- 149 Eric Grajales (RS So) – Grajales was a top recruit coming out of high school and forced to wrestle at a weight probably too high for him last year. He still managed a 18-14 record, coming on strong at the end to finish 2nd in the B1G and an NCAA qualifier. He was one tournament win away from All-American status. There isn’t much difference in the national and conference outlook as the B1G peppers the national scene with 7 in the top 15, led by defending B1G champ, PSU’s Molinaro. Grajales will have a lot competition for that second spot, but, we should expect him to own it and maybe make a run at Molinaro. He will enter the season in the top 10.
- 157 Brandon Zeerip (RS So) – Zeerip was a puzzling case at the end of last year. He compiled a 27-13 record including 6-4 in the conference regular season. Yet, he failed to place at the B1G meet. Maybe his first year as a starter wore him down. His early performance was encouraging though, giving last years lineup a needed boost early. Initial rankings look to have him 7th in the B1G and just in the top 25 nationally. But, he has competed with and even beat some of those ahead of him. He could be a key piece to the team standing.
- 165 Dan Yates (RS So) – Yates had a solid 2010-11. He was 24-14, 5th in the B1G and a NCAA qualifier. He is another one, like B. Zeerip, that can compete with most those ahead of his 7th B1G ranking. Wisconsin’s Howe taking this year off helps. The favorite, PSU’s Taylor, may be at another level then Yates. Beyond that, he should push for a top 3 finish. Nationally he ranks just in the top 25, but, has the potential to be a top 15 guy.
- 174 Justin Zeerip (RS Sr) – Justin showed flashes of top level talent as well as crashes. He finished last year 16-15, 8th in the B1G, NCAA qualifier (although was 2 and out). That line is in no way a good representation of him. Mid-season I thought he may have a shot at All-American status and wouldn’t have been surprised with a run at it even after a disappointing conference tournament. There is a solid top 4 in the B1G ranked in the top 10 nationally that I would expect him to be competitive with. He’ll enter the season in the top 20.
- 184 Hunter Collins (RS Jr) – This was the weak spot for the Wolverines last year and will be the only weight without a ranked wrestler this season. Collins went 8-19 and was two and out at B1G’s. Collins is a ways off the top tier talent in the conference (like PSU’s Wright, Iowa’s Grambrall and Minnesota’s Steinhaus), but, may still be able to contend for that 5th spot. Everyone catches a break from Wisconsin’s Rutt taking the year off. If Collins can crack the top 25, that’s a plus.
- 197 Max Huntley (RS Fr) – The fresh face of this years team. They need to replace a 3-time NCAA qualifier in Anthony Biondo. Huntley sat out last year. His only exhibition action ended in injury. A product of Blair Academy, he looks to enter the season ranked in the top 25 and around 7th in the B1G. Tough weight for a underclassmen, but, Huntley has enough talent and experience to make this a solid spot for Michigan.
- 285 Ben Apland (RS Jr) – The curios case of Ben Apland. Here is a kid that has shown he could beat anyone in the B1G. But, just about the whole weight is a head scratcher for the conference. The top 7 or 8 could finish in any order. He was 18-15 last year, 6th in the conference and an NCAA qualifier. He’ll enter the season just outside the top 15 nationally and around 6th in the B1G. If I sorted out the madness and made a guess, I’d say he could make a run at 4th and should at least make 5th to have a successful season for him. That would be a top 10 national finish most likely.
Michigan kicks off with some exhibitions in early Nov. Don’t usually see a lot of starters in these. The regular season then gets going with a couple duals against @ Buffalo and @ Pitt. Pitt’s a mid ranked team nationally, so that should be a good early season test.
The Cliff Keen Invitational in early Dec. will help show the individuals how they are stacking up nationally. Also a good evaluation of the team.
B1G season kicks off in mid-December with a mat town invitational in PA and dual with a top 25 CMU at home mixed in.
As far as the B1G, Michigan host 4 teams. Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and MSU. Illinois looks to be ranked just behind the Wolverines and is the only top 10 team at home. They’ll hit the road for Northwestern, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State. Those are some tough trips. Northwestern is a top 20 team. Minnesota and PSU are top 5. They catch a break missing top ranked Iowa. They’ll need to make sure and secure the Illinois win and pick off one of Minnesota and PSU to have a shot at the B1G dual title.
The year ends with some great wrestling. Cliff Keen duals mid-February (an extremely fun tournament), B1G’s in the first part of March and then NCAA’s.
Michigan didn’t get their lineup sorted out till after that early season Cliff Keen tournament last year. We have a much better understanding heading into this season, but, you never know till they get on the mat. I hope to break down matchups again this year on the big duals and tournaments along with recaps.
As a rock.
for wrestling in Ann Arbor. Then next year, the team brings 7 starters back and brings in some incredible freshman.